Do you check your Alexa traffic rank every month? Every week? Every day?!
If so, don’t panic! You’re not alone. You’re an Alexaholic.
Alexaholics like to check their traffic rank a lot — they even have their own website! Alexaholic.com supports the Alexaholic philosophy with tools like a little “chartlet” for your site that displays your Alexa rank and an interface for easy traffic comparisons.
For all you non-Alexaholics out there, a word of explanation is in order. The Alexa Traffic Rank compares over 5,000,000 websites worldwide by how many visitors come to their sites each day and how they behave when they get there. By calculating the percentage of the total number of users who visit (they call this Reach) and the total number of pages that they view (called Page Views), Alexa comes up with a daily page rank. You can even compare your website with your competitors. This is a graph comparing the percentage of users who visited Google.com and MSN.com in the last year.
Interestingly, Alexa estimates that a higher percentage of internet users visited Google than MSN until the beginning of this year when a greater percentage of users visited MSN. (Keep in mind that these numbers are relevant for all subdomains of Google and MSN so should not necessarily be interpreted to mean that Google’s search pages are less or more popular than MSN’s). That is not the point. The important point is that the Alexa graph reflects a comparative change.
More proactive Alexaholics have tried to affect their traffic ranks by joining other Alexaholics in Alexa communities or traffic exchanges. The idea is that you can install the toolbar and visit yourself or better yet, get together in a community and all visit each other. Does this seem like cheating? Well, this is the kind of thing that makes others wary of Alexa.
Luckily, Alexa isn’t the only game in town. Compete.com also has a downloadable toolbar for counting visitors.
Compete’s graph doesn’t show the same little jump that Alexa showed for MSN. This may be because of the way Compete normalizes their data or because Alexa’s data has a different bias or they may not be analyzing exactly the same set of pages but, in fact this is the point.All these kinds of marketing research results should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, go ahead and check your Alexa rank, check your Compete rank — even check your horoscope. Just don’t sell the farm without knowing exactly what the results mean.
Alexa and Compete are undoubtedly measuring something. The big question is what. How do you use Alexa? Let us know.